With much of the attention during this unpredictable presidential campaign focused on conservative Republicans eager to back an uncompromising outsider, many Democrats are just as determined to buck the establishment and pursue a more liberal direction. The battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination has been surprisingly close and could stretch beyond Florida's March 15 primary. But only Clinton has the skill and experience to appeal to general election voters and build on President Barack Obama's record.
The frustration over the economic recovery that benefits too few Americans, the shortcomings of health care reform and the high cost of college education is genuine. So are the concerns about global terrorism, personal security at home and the nation's relationships with old adversaries abroad. Democrats are as worried about these issues as Republicans, and they are just as hungry for real change in gridlocked Washington.
Clinton is clearly the best prepared to achieve results in each of those areas. She has long been a persuasive advocate for women, minorities and middle-income families. She knows the gritty specifics of health care policy, and she gained extensive foreign policy experience as secretary of state. The former first lady and U.S. senator is a planner, a detail-oriented leader with refined positions that are not easily condensed into an applause line. She also has demonstrated her skill as a negotiator and as a determined advocate in all sorts of situations over a lifetime in the public eye.
Improving economic opportunities for every American will require multiple approaches. Clinton has a diversified strategy that includes raising the minimum wage, closing corporate tax loopholes and investing in infrastructure and renewable energy. While she is criticized for her ties to Wall Street, she is a strong supporter of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations and would strengthen oversight of the biggest banks. She has achievable goals for lowering college costs and reducing student debt, and she would build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act by seeking to lower deductibles and drug costs.
In this era of terrorist threats and chest-thumping by Russia and North Korea, Clinton's experience as secretary of state would be particularly helpful. She is more hawkish than Obama, but unlike some Republicans she is not looking for a ground war anywhere. She recognizes the importance of following through with the nuclear agreement with Iran while holding that nation accountable for sponsoring terrorism. Clinton is a known player with deep relationships around the world, and the ability to build coalitions and effectively confront adversaries without provoking all-out war has never been more valuable.
To be sure, the former secretary of state is an imperfect candidate with political baggage that would sink most other politicians. She endured the scandals and partisan investigations that plagued her husband's administration. She has been forced to acknowledge her terrible judgment in using a private computer server and personal email account as secretary of state, a practice the FBI is investigating. But Clinton's record as a pragmatic progressive should be beyond question, and so should her resilience.
Sanders, the U.S. senator from Vermont and self-described socialist, virtually tied Clinton in Iowa and easily won in New Hampshire by exploiting voter frustration with income inequality and stalemate in Washington. His calls for revolutionary change are as tantalizing to liberal voters as they are unrealistic, particularly in today's polarized politics. His proposals for a single-payer health care system and free college tuition are expensive fantasies. His lack of a coherent foreign policy and tendency toward isolationist positions are particularly concerning. There is no indication Sanders is prepared to effectively protect the United States from terrorists or manage the complicated relationships this nation must nurture around the world.
Clinton has been battle-tested, and she is better prepared to be president than when she lost to Obama in the 2008 primaries. The fight for the Democratic nomination may last far longer than anticipated, but only Clinton can win in November and is prepared for the nation's highest office. For the Democratic nomination for president, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Hillary Clinton.